CIOs' Roles Are Questioned

Fewer than half of the 27 largest federal agencies have chief information officers whose only area of responsibility is information management, a senior General Accounting Office official told a House subcommittee Monday.

The Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 requires the 27 agencies to appoint CIOs and make information management their primary duty, but the executive branch has not fully implemented the law, said Gene L. Dodaro, the assistant comptroller general in charge of GAO's Accounting and Information Management Division.

There are plenty of pervasive information technology problems requiring full-time attention from a CIO, Dodaro told the House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on management, information and technology.

"We are particularly troubled by agencies that have vested CIO and chief financial officer responsibilities in one person," Dodaro said. The Cabinet agencies with combined CIO/CFO jobs are Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Justice and Veterans Affairs, he said.

Dodaro also testified that agencies should appoint CIOs for their major subcomponents and bureaus. In some cases, he suggested, the bureaus are engaged in major IT programs but lack the management attention that a CIO should give such projects. Some CIOs do not have full authority over all their agency's operating units and field offices, he said.

Dodaro and Rep. Stephen Horn, R-Calif., the subcommittee chairman, both called on the Office of Management and Budget to keep a close eye on implementation of the Clinger-Cohen law. Horn said once again that he will introduce a bill to establish a separate management office because he believes OMB is neglecting the management side of its job.

About a year after most Clinger-Cohen provisions took effect, Horn said, agencies have made considerable progress in implementation, but they still have a long way to go. "I expect to see full-time CIOs," he said.

A panel of CIOs from Agriculture, Commerce and State testified that the CIO Council, a coordinating council, is helping CIOs deal with challenges such as the potential year 2000 crisis and the difficulty in exchanging electronic mail attachments when users have different makes of e-mail software.

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